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‘I hope you came to dance tonight,’ Timberlake implores, and then delivers

Justin Timberlake performs at the Bryce Jordan Center as part of his The Man of the Woods Tour on Monday, Oct. 15, 2018.
Justin Timberlake performs at the Bryce Jordan Center as part of his The Man of the Woods Tour on Monday, Oct. 15, 2018. adrey@centredaily.com

This Monday was drearier than most, so the music enthusiasts of State College needed any excuse to rock their bodies. Luckily, Justin Timberlake obliged.

As part of his global The Man of the Woods Tour, Timberlake performed at the Bryce Jordan Center. His pit stop at University Park marked the latest leg of a tour that began in Toronto and is slated to end in Denver. The tour is meant to celebrate the release of Timberlake’s latest album of the same name, and serves as an interactive departure from the usual concert format.

With an ear attuned to the dramatic, Timberlake preluded his entrance with fog and bass-laden ambiance. One by one, individual dancers and musicians in Timberlake’s entourage emerged from a stage door, before JT himself jumped into the fray.

“Oh, State College,” Timberlake said. “I hope you came to dance tonight!”

What followed next was a two-hour display of choreography, vocal flourishes, and strobe lights. All this, wrapped either as a trip down memory lane judging by the set list, or a trip into the woods by the special effects.

Along with the main stage, which housed an assortment of percussive instruments and keyboards, a walkway for Justin jutted out of this centerpiece and coiled around the BJC’s main floor. In order to match the album’s woodsy aesthetic, barren trees peppered the walkway. Fans with extra dollars were able to crowd around the stage and its extensions, and the true select of the audience even drank at a bar in the middle of the catwalk and action.

Educators at Burleson Independent School District made a parody video of Justin Timberlake's "Can't Stop this Feeling" in anticipation of the new school year.

Francesco Yates warmed up the audience before Timberlake’s entrance, though the combination of liquor and fandom made this task relatively easy. Even before Yates, however, there was a palpable excitement in the air, even if the air itself grew damp and grey.

As storm clouds brewed overhead, many of Timberlake’s local fans braced for gusts of rain-soaked winds. Still, the fans waited, protected from the elements by parkas and umbrellas. Sheri and Patrick Weimer attended the event as a way to spice up date night, though half of the married couple considers herself a bigger fan than the other.

“I’m here to knock something off my bucket list,” Sheri Weimer said. She first became exposed to Timberlake through her daughters’ obsession with NSYNC. Eventually, the fever spread to the maternal side and hasn’t subsided yet. Pleased with Timberlake’s newest album, Mrs. Weimer was just ecstatic to finally see him in person, even if only from a distance.

As for her husband, Mr. Weimer was just doing his spousal duties. “I’m just here to make my wife happy,” he said.

Alycia Fournier spoke of Timberlake as if the performer was an ancient heirloom or relative. “I feel like Justin has always been here,” Fournier said, adding that she’s always known one of his songs.

Both Fournier and her friend, Emma Holland, cited SexyBack as their favorite Timberlake standard. Taking time off from their studies, the two ventured out to the BJC as long-time Timberlake fanatics. Holland, however, got a recommendation to see the concert from the most unlikely of sources: her father.

“He viewed a past performance on-demand, and told me, ‘I would be blown away,’” Holland said. She hoped her father’s praise will hold true.

Cassie Ayers said she’s been a fan since the age of eight; Melissa Torres said for the past 22 years. No matter the chronology, both friends exclaimed they were “huge fans” of Timberlake and his past work, especially the singer’s NSYNC days.

“This has been one of my dream experiences,” Ayers said. “And to finally see him in the flesh is amazing.” Torres expressed just as much glee at the opportunity, though she flavored her excitement with a dose of sarcasm. “I would’ve preferred if the rest of NSYNC were here, but we’ll survive,” she said.

Before his final selection, Timberlake lamented how he never went to college and thus “missed the college experience.” To make up for this, Timberlake and the Tennessee Kids took shots of tequila on stage.

“Now we’ve all been drinking,” Timberlake said to the audience. Then he picked up an acoustic guitar, and played the audience out.

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